Bunker Consistnecy, Good or Bad??
By Patrick S. Knelly GCS
It’s been a crazy summer, no question! I’ve taken a break from my blogging duties, but the days are getting shorter, the temps getting cooler and the turf (and my staff!) are starting to recover from one of the more difficult summer seasons in my memory. While I plan to get into some of the struggles we faced this season in detail later this month, I want to take this time to blast out some thoughts on our recently completed bunker re-filling project.
Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but we added somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 tons of sand to the OLD bunkers on the front 9 of Sugarloaf Golf Club this July. It was a major undertaking, and my staff and I worked our tails off to re-fill the bunkers to a playable depth (4-5″) on holes 2-9. There were some bunkers on the course that had less than one inch of sand, and had become contaminated with rocks, which in my opinion made them unfair to play from. The process included the removal of all existing contaminated sand and small rocks. We then added some drainage lines, and some sump style drainage basins, added sand and compacted/raked it until it was firm and playable. The look and playability was improved immediately, and they now drain much faster after the afternoon thunderstorms we often receive in PA.
Needless to say, I was very happy with the results of the project. Although I would prefer to complete a total rebuild of the bunkers like we have done on holes 10, 11, and 15-18 but at this time my staff is too short and my budget is too tight to undertake any more wholesale reconstruction. I hope to continue that project in 2012 on holes #12 & 13, but something needed to be done as a stop gap measure on the front nine, so we went ahead and refilled the bunkers as described above.
Despite my personal feelings on the project, something funny has taken place. I have received a number of “not so glowing” comments about the additon of sand to the bunkers. The common denominator seems to revolve around a very subjective little term, “consistency”…… It has been laid out to me by some in a constructive manner, and others in a not so constructive tone. I must say, I was shocked and discouraged to hear this, considering our #1 issue with bunkers over the years has always been a lack of proper sand depth. So, what is happening?
I feel the largest issue, is that our players are not yet used to the new sand’s playability. Yes, it will be softer. Anything is softer than the hardpan dirt we had before!!! On a serious note, some of this issue should go away as we get more acclimated to the new sand, and also the sand will continue to “set-up” and become slightly more firm with time. So, I hope that these factors alleviate some of these complaints as time goes forward.
Second, I think a short discussion on “bunkers” as “hazards” is probably appropriate. I hate to sound inconsiderate to the plight of the golfer who finds themselves in a bunker, but please keep in mind, a bunker is a Hazard. A hazard is designed to provide a penalty, and they are integral components of a well designed golf hole. Our bunkering provides protection/penalty to some of our less difficult holes, and act as a major factor in the design of our beautiful course. If they were meant to be easy, they would not be named “traps”, “bunkers”, or “hazards”? In my personal opinion consistency is not something we should strive for, a bunker is meant to be fair, but it is also meant to be a penalty to those who hit into them. I feel that should you find your ball in a hazard, part of the penalty is not knowing exactly how you ball will react. I’m sure many will not agree with my opinion, but I feel golf course architecture is meant to be penal at times and bunkers are part of what makes golf a challenging yet unpredictable sport. Maybe we need to re-evaluate where the fault lies, and consider the possiblility that it was a bad shot that lead us into the “bunker” and we deserve to reap what we sow…..
Feel free to let me know your feelings on this subject!